North County Report: Oceanside Mayor Bows Out

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North County Report: Oceanside Mayor Bows Out

North County is ripe for new development and more fires, a neverending water fight finally ended and more in our weekly roundup of news from North County.

Oceanside Mayor Jim Wood talks with supporters at a campaign event during his 2014 bid for county supervisor. / Photo by Sam Hodgson

Facing a deadline to hold a public meeting or be forced out of office, Oceanside Mayor Jim Wood returned to the dais last Wednesday.

The Union-Tribune reported that Wood appeared shaky, was difficult to understand and required assistance from the city clerk and city manager to actually carry out many of the functions needed to run the meeting. He was welcomed back by friends and political rivals, as the custom of small-town politics dictates.

But this week, the city released a brief letter written by Wood to City Clerk Zack Beck, announcing his resignation.

“My sincere hope was to continue my current term in office; however, I now need to focus on my health full-time,” Wood wrote.

The Union-Tribune reports that Wood sent a second letter, this time to the City Council, recommending they appoint Beck or former City Manager Peter Weiss to serve as interim mayor.

The City Council has 60 days to make an appointment, or the city will likely hold a special election in November 2018.

State law requires that the special election occur on the next regularly scheduled election – in this case, the June primary – provided that day is at least 114 days away from the date of resignation.

Wood’s resignation takes effect Jan. 1, at which point the Council will have 60 days to make an appointment. If the Council uses all 60 days to make a decision, the election would have to go to November. The Council has 41 days to make a decision on an appointment or election, if it wants to settle the matter in June.

North County Is Enticing to Developers, but No Stranger to Fire

As the latest figures from the Lilac Fire roll in – about 95 percent containment and over 100 homes destroyed – the disaster that struck our own little corner of paradise reminds us that fires happen, and they aren’t going away.

While the cause of the fire remains under investigation, this corner of the county is no stranger to wildfire, as Voice’s Maya Srikrishnan writes. It sits in the wildland-urban interface, where large-scale destruction from wildfire occurs – and it’s exactly where the county’s developers want to build.

In addition to the Lilac Fire, inland North County saw the Cocos Fire in 2014, the Witch Fire in 2007 and the Cedar Fire in 2003, which still remains among California’s worst fires.

But places like Valley Center, Pala and the areas around San Marcos and Escondido have a lot of undeveloped land to offer developers.

With leapfrog development – where large neighborhoods go up outside of existing urban areas – people bring even more fire-food to an area already filled with dry vegetation, along with their tendencies to trigger fires.

The county and the city of Escondido will consider a number of such projects in the coming year, Srikrishnan writes. There’s the Lilac Hills project, which was defeated by voters last November, but which still lives in the planning process; Safari Highlands, outside Escondido; Newland Sierra, near Interstate 15 and Deer Springs Road; and Harmony Grove South, an expansion of the Harmony Grove development that is currently being built near Elfin Forest.

Decades-Long Water Fight Settles Down

Another decades-long water dispute wrapped up this week, this time between Camp Pendleton and the Fallbrook Public Utility District.

The website Anza Valley Outlook first reported that litigation began 66 years ago, and 15 years later, the parties were directed to work together to seek a solution.

The final proposal is to capture water from the Santa Margarita River and store it in the district’s 440 million-gallon reservoir west of Interstate 15, and in an aquifer on Camp Pendleton. The water will then be piped back to Fallbrook. The total amount of water Fallbrook will gain access to amounts to about 30 percent of the district’s water use.

The Union-Tribune reported that a plan in the 1980s called for building a dam to contain Fallbrook’s share of the water, but that plan was abandoned by “environmental conflicts” amid the country’s broader realization that building dams is a pretty bad way to store water.

The bill for the final water-sharing plan will cost the federal government $47 million, and Fallbrook will pay another $45 million to construct its own facilities to process the water.

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